Contractualism, reciprocity, compensation

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2 (3):1-23 (2007)
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Abstract

Two generally recognized moral duties are to reciprocate benefits one has received from others and to compensate harms one has done to others. In this paper I want to show that it is not possible to give an adequate account of either duty – or at least one that corresponds to our actual practices – within a contractualist moral theory of the type developed by T. M. Scanlon (1982, 1998). This fact is interesting in its own right, as contractualism is a leading contemporary contender among deontological moral theories, and the two duties I have mentioned are fairly standard ingredients of such theories. But it also serves to highlight a general problem with contractualism, at least in Scanlon’s version – namely its one-dimensional view of the keystone of any plausible deontological theory: the idea of respect for persons.

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David Alm
Lund University

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References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 1651 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by C. B. Macpherson.
The metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mary J. Gregor.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.

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